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Action is the tendency towards making an effort to accomplish a goal.
- Of every noble action the intent
Is to give worth reward, vice punishment.
- Beaumont and Fletcher, The Captain (c. 1609–12; published 1647), Act V, scene 5.
- Fate quello che noi diciamo e non quello che noi facciamo.
- Do as we say, not as we do.
- Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, or Ten Days' Entertainment (c, 1350 [1820 reprint]), Third Day, Seventh Story, p. 207.
- That low man seeks a little thing to do,
Sees it and does it.
This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
Dies ere he knows it.
- Put his shoulder to the wheel.
- Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Part II, Sect. 1, Memb. 2.
- Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
- Thomas Carlyle, "Signs of the Times" (1829), in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1827–1855).
- If use becomes abuse, we should intervene at once, for if abuse becomes habit, then there is no remedy.
- Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Quotes we cherish. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani, 2014, p. 35.
- Ye been oure lord, dooth with youre owene thyng Right as yow list.
- Geoffrey Chaucer, "Clerk’s Tale", lines 652–53, The Canterbury Tales (1957 edition), p. 108. An early version of "Do your own thing".
- It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness.
- Motto of the Christopher Society, the sentiment of which is an old Chinese proverb; reported in Bergen Evans, Dictionary of Quotations (1968), p. 87, no. 7. Paraphrased by Adlai Stevenson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt after her death (November 7, 1962): "I have lost more than a beloved friend. I have lost an inspiration. She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world"; reported by The New York Times (November 8, 1962), p. 34.
- A man who waits to believe in action before acting is anything you like, but he’s not a man of action. It is as if a tennis player before returning a ball stopped to think about his views of the physical and mental advantages of tennis. You must act as you breathe.
- Georges Clemenceau, Clemenceau, The Events of His Life as Told by Himself to His Former Secretary, Jean Martet (1930) as translated by Milton Waldman; Conversation with Jean Martet (18 December 1927), Chapter 11, page 167.
- When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn't a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking.
- Georges Clemenceau, Clemenceau, The Events of His Life as Told by Himself to His Former Secretary, Jean Martet (1930) as translated by Milton Waldman; Conversation with Jean Martet (1 January 1928), Chapter 12.
- Let's meet and either do or die.
- John Fletcher, The Island Princess (c. 1620; published 1647), Act II, scene 2.
- Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate.
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts, our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.
- John Fletcher, The Honest Man's Fortune (published 1647), epilogue, line 37.
- Letting I dare not wait upon I would is a mug's game, and those who play it usually get mugged.
- Robert Heller, British management journalist and author. 'The Truth About Decisions', ch.3, The Decision Makers (1989).
- A man that's fond precociously of stirring,
Must be a spoon.
- Thomas Hood, Morning Meditations (1839), St. 10.
- Fungar vice cotis, acutum
Reddere quæ ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi.
- I will perform the function of a whetstone, which is able to restore sharpness to iron, though itself unable to cut.
- Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 304.
- In medias res.
- Into the midst of things.
- Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 148.
- The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter & did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing — "Carry a message to Garcia!"
- If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all?
- [...] Things don't just happen, they are made to happen.
- She could never rid herself of the sense that unhappiness was a state of disease – of suffering as opposed to doing. To "do" – it hardly mattered what – would therefore be an escape, perhaps in some degree a remedy.
- Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, ch. XLI
- I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.
- John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Book 1, Chapter 3, §3.
- Let us, then, be up and doing.
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Psalm of Life (1839), St. 9.
- With useless endeavour
Is Sisyphus rolling
His stone up the mountain!
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Masque of Pandora (1875), Part V, "The House of Epimetheus", Chorus of the Eumenides.
- All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.
- James Russell Lowell, Literary Essays, Volume II (1870-1890), "Rousseau and the Sentimentalists".
- Those graceful acts,
Those thousand decencies that daily flow
From all her words and actions.
- The man of action is not the headstrong fool who rushes into danger with no thought for himself, but the man who puts into practice the things he knows.
- Cesare Pavese, This Business of Living, 1938-10-03
- It is some time since so few have been asked to do so much for so many on so little.
- Elfan B. Rees, "The Refugee and the United Nations", International Conciliation (June 1953), p. 281. Dr. Rees, secretary of the United Nations Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, was speaking of the U.N. budget designated to assist World War II refugees.
- Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant
More learned than the ears.
- * * * the blood more stirs
To rouse a lion, than to start a hare.
- I profess not talking: only this,
Let each man do his best.
- We must not stint
Our necessary actions, in the fear
To cope malicious censurers.
- Things done well,
And with a care, exempt themselves from fear;
Things done without example, in their issue
Are to be fear'd.
- If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly.
- From this moment,
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand. And even now,
To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done.
- But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where, to do harm,
Is often laudable; to do good, sometime,
Accounted dangerous folly.
- So smile the Heavens upon this holy act
That after hours with sorrow chide us not!
- How my achievements mock me!
I will go meet them.
- Heaven ne'er helps the men who will not act.
- Sophocles, Fragment 288. (Plumptre's translation, as cited in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 1906).
- Variant: Heaven never helps the man who will not act.
- If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten.
- Neil Strauss, The Game (2005).
- So many worlds, so much to do,
So little done, such things to be.
- Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
- Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854), Stanza 2.
- The wisest man is he who can account for his actions.
- A slender acquaintance with the world, must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends; and that the most liberal professions of good-will are far from being the surest marks of it.
- George Washington, attributed in John Frederick Schroeder, ed. Maxims of Washington (1855).
- We cannot think first and act afterwards. From the moment of birth we are immersed in action and can only fitfully guide it by taking thought.
- Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (1925), p. 187.
- Action is transitory—a step, a blow—
The motion of a muscle—this way or that—
'Tis done; and in the after-vacancy
We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed.
- William Wordsworth,The White Doe of Rylstone, line 1 (1807).
- And all may do what has by man been done.
- Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VI, line 611.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 6-9.
- Let us do or die.
- Robert Burns, Bannockburn.
- What's done we partly may compute,
But know not what's resisted.
- Robert Burns, Address to the Unco Guid.
- The best way to keep good acts in memory is to refresh them with new.
- He is at no end of his actions blest
Whose ends will make him greatest and not best.
- George Chapman, Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Act V, scene 1.
- Quod est, eo decet uti: et quicquid agas, agere pro viribus.
- What one has, one ought to use: and whatever he does he should do with all his might.
- Cicero, De Senectute, IX.
- It is better to wear out than to rust out.
- Bishop Cumberland. See Horne's Sermon, On the Duty of Contending for the Truth.
- Actions of the last age are like almanacs of the last year.
- Sir John Denham, The Sophy, A Tragedy.
- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.
- Ecclesiastes, IX. 10.
- For strong souls
Live like fire-hearted suns; to spend their strength
In furthest striving action.
- George Eliot, The Spanish Gypsy (1868), Book IV.
- Zeus hates busybodies and those who do too much.
- Euripides, quoted by Emerson.
- A fiery chariot, borne on buoyant pinions,
Sweeps near me now! I soon shall ready be
To pierce the ether's high, unknown dominions,
To reach new spheres of pure activity!
- Do well and right, and let the world sink.
- George Herbert, Country Parson, Chapter XXIX.
- Let thy mind still be bent, still plotting, where,
And when, and how thy business may be done.
Slackness breeds worms; but the sure traveller,
Though he alights sometimes still goeth on.
- George Herbert, The Temple (1633), Church Porch, Stanza 57.
- The shortest answer is doing.
- George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum (1651).
- Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt;
Nothing's so hard but search will find it out.
- Robert Herrick, Seek and Find.
- It is not book learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebræ which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies, do a thing—"carry a message to Garcia."
- Elbert Hubbard, Carry a Message to Garcia, Philistine (March, 1900). (Lieut. Col. Andrew S. Rowan carried the message to Garcia).
- That action which appears most conducive to the happiness and virtue of mankind.
- Frances Hutcheson, A System of Moral Philosophy, The General Notions of Rights, and Laws Explained, Book II, Chapter III.
- Attack is the reaction; I never think I have hit hard unless it rebounds.
- Quelque éclatante que soit une action, elle ne doit pas passer pour grande, lorsqu'elle n'est pas l'effet d'un grand dessein.
- However resplendent an action may be, it should not be accounted great unless it is the result of a great design.
- François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes (1665–1678), 160.
- No action, whether foul or fair,
Is ever done, but it leaves somewhere
A record, written by fingers ghostly,
As a blessing or a curse, and mostly
In the greater weakness or greater strength
Of the acts which follow it.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christus, The Golden Legend (1872), Part II. A Village Church.
- The good one, after every action, closes
His volume, and ascends with it to God.
The other keeps his dreadful day-book open
Till sunset, that we may repent; which doing,
The record of the action fades away,
And leaves a line of white across the page
Now if my act be good, as I believe,
It cannot be recalled. It is already
Sealed up in heaven, as a good deed accomplished.
The rest is yours.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christus, The Golden Legend (1872), Part VI.
- Trust no future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within and God o'erhead.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Psalm of Life.
- Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.
- James Russell Lowell, Among my Books, Rousseau and the Sentimentalists.
- Nil actum credens dum quid superesset agendum.
- Thinking that nothing was done, if anything remained to do.
- Lucan, Pharsalia, II. 657.
- Go, and do thou likewise.
- Luke. X. 37.
- He nothing common did, or mean,
Upon that memorable scene.
- Andrew Marvell, Horatian Ode, Upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland.
- So much one man can do,
That does both act and know.
- Andrew Marvell, Horatian Ode, Upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland.
- Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
- Matthew, VII. 12.
- Ce qui est faict ne se peult desfaire.
- What's done can't be undone.
- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, III.
- Push on,—keep moving.
- Thomas Morton, Cure for the Heartache, Act II, scene 1.
- Ferreus assiduo consumitur anulus usu.
- The iron ring is worn out by constant use.
- Ovid, Ars Amatoris, Book I. 473.
- Aut petis, aut urgues ruiturum, Sisyphe, saxum.
- Either you pursue or push, O Sisyphus, the stone destined to keep rolling.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4, 459.
- What the Puritans gave the world was not thought, but action.
- Wendell Phillips, speech, The Pilgrims. Dec. 21, 1855.
- Not always actions show the man; we find
Who does a kindness is not therefore kind.
- Alexander Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle I, line 109.
- Iron sharpeneth iron.
- Proverbs, XXVII. 17.
- So much to do; so little done.
- Cecil Rhodes, last words.
- Prius quam incipias consulto, et ubi consulueris mature facto opus est.
- Get good counsel before you begin: and when you have decided, act promptly.
- Sallust, Catilina. I.
- Wer gar zu viel bedenkt, wird wenig leisten.
- He that is overcautious will accomplish little.
- Friedrich Schiller, Wilhelm Tell, III. 1. 72.
- Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.
- James Shirley, Contention of Ajax and Ulysses, scene 3, line 23. ("In the dust" in Percy's Reliques. Misquoted "Ashes of the dust" on old tombstone at St. Augustine, Florida).
- Rightness expresses of actions, what straightness does of lines; and there can no more be two kinds of right action than there can be two kinds of straight line.
- Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, Chapter XXXII. Par. 4.
- The sweet remembrance of the just
Shall flourish when he sleeps in dust.
- Tate and Brady, Psalm 112. (Ed. 1695).
- Dicta et facta.
- Said and done. Done as soon as said.
- Terence, Eunuchus, 5. 4. 19.
- Actum ne agas.
- Do not do what is already done.
- Terence, Phormio, II. 3. 72.
- Action is transitory, a step, a blow,
The motion of a muscle—this way or that.
- William Wordsworth, The Borderers, Act III.
Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
- Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
- Activity in the kingdom of God augments the power of spiritual life, and deepens the consciousness of religious realities.
- William Adams, p. 4.
- Look around you, and you will behold the universe full of active powers. Action is, so to speak, the genius of nature. By motion and exertion, the system of being is preserved in vigor. By its different parts always acting in subordination one to another, the perfection of the whole is carried on. The heavenly bodies perpetually revolve. Day and night incessantly repeat their appointed course. Continual operations are going on in the earth and in the waters. Nothing stands still. All is alive and stirring throughout the universe. In the midst of this animated and busy scene, is man alone to remain idle in his place? Belongs it to him to be the sole inactive and slothful being in the creation, when in so many various ways he might improve his own nature; might advance the glory of the God who made him; and contribute his part in the general good?
- Hugh Blair, p. 4.
- Napoleon was the most effective man in modern times — some will say of all times. The secret of his character was, that while his plans were more vast, more various, and, of course, more difficult than those of other men, he had the talent at the same time, to fill them up with perfect promptness and precision, in every particular of execution.
- Horace Bushnell, p. 5.
- What is done is done; has already blended itself with the boundless, ever living, ever working universe, and will also work there for good or evil, openly or secretly, throughout all time.
- Thomas Carlyle, p. 6.
- It is much easier to settle a point than to act on it.
- Richard Cecil, p. 4.
- Consider and act with reference to the true ends of existence. This world is but the vestibule of an immortal life. Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.
- Edwin Hubbell Chapin, p. 6.
- I have lived to know that the secret of happiness is never to allow your energies to stagnate.
- Adam Clarke, p. 3.
- Our actions must clothe us with an immortality loathsome or glorious.
- Charles Caleb Colton, p. 6.
- Let us remember that Elijah's God was with him only while he was occupied in noble and effectual services. When thus engaged, he exulted in the conscious majesty of a life which had upon it the stamp and signature of Divine power.
- Richard Fuller, p. 6.
- All mental discipline and symmetrical growth are from activity of the mind under the yoke of the will or personal power.
- Mark Hopkins, p. 5.
- The essential elements of giving are power and love — activity and affection — and the consciousness of the race testifies that in the high and appropriate exercise of these is a blessedness greater than any other.
- Mark Hopkins, p. 5.
- The life of man is made up of action and endurance; and life is fruitful in the ratio in which it is laid out in noble action or in patient perseverance.
- Henry Liddon, p. 3.
- The history of the Church of Christ from the days of the Apostles has been a history of spiritual movements.
- Henry Liddon, p. 4.
- Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith and winged by prayer,
Heaven's eternal day's before thee;
God's own hand shall guide thee there.
- Henry Francis Lyte, p. 5.
- Existence was given us for action, rather than indolent and aimless contemplation; our worth is determined by the good deeds we do, rather than by the fine emotions we feel. They greatly mistake, who suppose that God cares for no other pursuit than devotion.
- Elias Lyman Magoon, p. 2.
- It is no use for one to stand in the shade and complain that the sun does not shine upon him. He must come out resolutely on the hot and dusty field where all are compelled to antagonize with stubborn difficulties, and pertinaciously strive until he conquers, if he would deserve to be crowned.
- Elias Lyman Magoon, p. 6.
- It is well to think well; it is divine to act well.
- Horace Mann, p. 2.
- I have never heard any thing about the resolutions of the disciples, but a great deal about the Acts of the Apostles.
- Horace Mann, p. 3.
- Time is short, your obligations are infinite. Are your houses regulated, your children instructed, the afflicted relieved, the poor visited, the work of piety accomplished?
- Jean Baptiste Massillon, p. 5.
- Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part; do thou but thine.
- John Milton, p. 6.
- When I read the life of such a man as Paul, how I blush to think how sickly and dwarfed Christianity is at the present time, and how many hundreds there are who never think of working for the Son of God and honoring Christ.
- Dwight L. Moody, p. 3.
- I do not say the mind gets informed by action, — bodily action; but it does get earnestness and strength by it, and that nameless something that gives a man the mastership of his faculties.
- William Mountford, p. 5.
- Unselfish and noble acts are the most radiant epochs in the biography of souls.
- David Thomas, p. 4.
- Man, being essentially active, must find in activity his joy, as well as his beauty and glory; and labor, like every thing else that is good, is its own reward.
- Henry Benjamin Whipple, p. 3.
- Tempests may shake our dwellings and dissipate our commerce,
but they scourge before them the lazy elements, which
otherwise would stagnate into pestilence.
Be thy best thoughts to work divine addressed;
Do something, — do it soon — with all thy might;
An angel's wing would droop if long at rest,
And God Himself inactive were no longer blessed.
- Carlos Wilcox, p. 3.